Detroit council president wants tougher laws on dangerous dogs

DETROIT (FOX 2) – Loose dogs have long been an issue in Detroit — and following the deadly mauling of a 9-year-old girl — at least one member of City Council says — enough is enough.

“People are losing their lives,” Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones said. “When does it matter.”

The mayor’s administration and the Detroit Health Department got an earful from Jones this week.

The health department, which oversees Detroit Animal Care and Control, is under pressure to come up with ideas to beef up the city’s dangerous animal ordinance –after three pit bulls fatally mauled 9-year-old Emma Hernandez in August.

“At this point now, we’re gathering all of the suggestions. we’re working with law (department), DPD, the mayor’s office and your office to put together the best, strongest ordinance possible,” said Jean Ingersoll, Detroit Health Department.  

Some of the options under consideration are:

  • A requirement that owners spay or neuter their dogs.
  • A breeding license for owners with non-sterilized animals, as well as limits on breeding licenses.
  • Additional restrictions for animals exceeding a certain size.

Loose dogs have long been a problem in Detroit. Just this week two dogs damaged a woman’s car while going after stray cats hiding underneath it.|

And Wednesday night, a man mistakenly shot a 16-year-old boy while taking aim at the boy’s pit bull. It reportedly attacked the teen and the man’s German shepherd.

“We can write the laws all day long,” Jones said. “But if there is nobody enforcing the laws it doesn’t matter. No one is enforcing the laws that are on the books. Can I get mad at ten animal care and control officers, no. Because they can only do so much.”

That is one of city council’s biggest concerns. Even so, animal control says between September 2018 and August 2019, it wrote 240 percent more tickets than the same time a year earlier.

It also expects to have another nine officers on the street by the end of October. Another point of concern is the condition of fences in the city.

In the cases of Hernandez and 4 year-old Xavier Strickland, the boy fatally mauled in 2015, the dogs that attacked them were able to get through shoddy fencing and left their yards.

“We are working with (Detroit Buildings and Safety) on it, it is one of the ordinance amendments we would like to make,” Ingersoll said. “So we are consulting with Bseed and also experts to understand. If you can imagine it is complex – the type, the size, and we need experts to tell us what kind of fencing to have.”

Jones is pushing for tougher penalties for pet owners deemed to be irresponsible. 

For example, Detroit Animal Care and Control went to the home of Pierre Cleveland, the owner of the three pit bulls that killed that 9-year-old girl Emma Hernandez. animal care and control went to his home twice but never got a hold of them. 

If Brenda Jones has her way then if animal care and control cannot get in contact with a pet owner, there could be a hearing and the owner could have a $500 fine and possibly 90 days in jail.

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